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‘Pioneering’ Indonesian ecotoxicologist and Brighton grad wins Study UK Alumni Award

University of Brighton graduate, Wulan Koagouw, won the Science and Sustainability Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Indonesia earlier this month.

Wulan is a pioneering Indonesian ecotoxicologist who studies the effects of chemicals on biological organisms and the ecosystem. She conducted groundbreaking research on the pharmaceutical contamination of Jakarta Bay in Indonesia.

Her research was used by the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) as the guideline for the Jakarta administration to address wastewater management.

Wulan studied her PhD in Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton, where she produced innovative ecological research.

Wulan Koagouw

The Study UK Alumni Awards celebrate individuals who are leaders in their fields and have used their experience of studying in the UK to make a positive contribution to their community and industries. The awards showcase the impact and value of UK higher education.

Wulan said: “Being recognised…for the prestigious Study UK Alumni Awards is a profound honour that symbolises the culmination of years of dedication to my research and the water quality issue.

“This recognition is not just a personal achievement but a spotlight on the crucial issue of environmental sustainability and water quality, and the role of scientific research in addressing global challenges. It validates the importance of my work and its potential impact beyond academic circles.

“Personally it strengthens my resolve to continue my advocacy for environmental conservation, and the cause for clean water for everyone, and professionally it opens avenues for collaboration and support to further my research ambitions.”

Wulan Koagouw

Our alumni team caught up with Wulan to ask some questions about what inspires her research, what advice she would give to other students in this field of study, and why it’s important to be a visible Indonesian woman in science.

What inspired you to pursue your research on pharmaceutical contamination in Indonesia’s marine ecosystems?

“The inception of my research journey began with a deep concern for the escalating contamination in Indonesia’s marine ecosystems. This issue first caught my attention during my postgraduate studies when I learnt about the significant, yet under-reported, impact of pharmaceutical waste on marine biodiversity and local livelihoods.

“The crucial turning point was during fieldwork in the first year of my PhD. The sea was so choppy, I almost thought I wouldn’t make it back to land, let alone with the samples. While collecting water samples, I witnessed a village built entirely on seashells, where people struggled to access clean water. They sleep, eat, and bathe on those seashells, where clean water is a luxury.

“Realising the risks and effects these people faced made me more determined to make an impact through my research. Water is mandatory in humans’ lives, not optional. Hence, clean water should be accessible to everyone. This principle fuels my research.”

Wulan Koagouw on a boat collecting samples

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations within your field of research?

“My aspirations extend beyond the current scope of my research. I aim to pioneer innovative solutions to environmental challenges, focusing on sustainable practices that can be integrated into existing systems to mitigate the impact of human activities on aquatic ecosystems. Adding baseline and ecotoxicological data of emerging contaminants is an ongoing and progressing task.

“I am also undertaking projects focusing on wastewater technologies to tackle these issues, another important research topic I am pursuing. Collaborating with international researchers and policymakers to develop and implement effective strategies is a key part of my vision. Therefore, this is something that will breathe life into my aspirations.

“I am also passionate about mentoring the next generation of scientists, emphasising the importance of interdisciplinary research and the need for a concerted effort to tackle environmental issues. In my vision to have a lasting solution to the problem, educating future generations about the issue is fundamental, as we (and our planet) simply cannot afford to backtrack on the good actions we are currently undertaking. Therefore, I also want to explore and apply this approach further down the line, as I believe it is a very important step to maintain the legacy of good environmental awareness practices and mindset.”

What advice would you give to other students thinking of pursuing biosciences research projects of their own?

“For students embarking on a journey in biosciences, my advice is to embrace the challenges and opportunities that come with research. Stay curious, be open to learning from failures, and seek out diverse perspectives to enrich your understanding.

“The path of scientific inquiry is filled with uncertainties but is also replete with moments of discovery and innovation. Cultivate resilience, network with peers and mentors, and remember that every small contribution is a step towards a larger goal.”

Wulan Koagouw smiling sat on grass

You talk a little about being a visible Indonesian woman in science. Why this is important to you?

“My identity as an Indonesian woman in science carries a significant responsibility to inspire and empower others. I have found that I am seen as a role model for this, and I love to pay it forward by involving myself in mentorship programs for women who want to return to or pursue further careers in science.

“Growing up in a society where the choice to have a career in science is not popular (or, for some, just not possible), I understand the challenges. Therefore, this StudyUK Alumni Award nomination serves as important evidence that challenges that mindset. It is crucial to challenge prevailing stereotypes and barriers that women, particularly from underrepresented regions, face in STEM fields.

“My visibility is evidence of the possibilities that arise from hard work, perseverance, and the support of institutions that champion diversity and inclusion. It highlights the importance of creating more inclusive scientific communities that value contributions from all backgrounds, thereby enriching the global research and innovation.”

 

A huge congratulations to Wulan on this incredible achievement from all of us at the University of Brighton!

alumni awardsawards finalistecotoxicologistenvironmentEnvironmental Sciencesfinalisthigher edIndonesiaIndonesianJakartaknowledge exchangementormentorshipPhDpostgraduate researchresearchscienceScience and Sustainability Awardscientific researchSTEMStudy UKStudy UK Alumni AwardsSustainabilityUK higher educationwomen in sciencewomen in STEM

Zoe Cassell • March 6, 2024


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